Moving flood water in particular is powerful, relentless and extremely dangerous
Flooding can occur at any time of the year and can be due to many causes from heavy rainfall and blocked drains to burst water mains, tidal ingress and burst river banks.
Where the risk of flooding comes from rivers or the sea you're likely to get some advanced warning from the Environment Agency but surface water flooding resulting from heavy rain combined with drains that can't cope is much more difficult to predict.
Whatever the cause, flood water presents a general hazard to health.
Moving flood water in particular is powerful, relentless and extremely dangerous.
Our own Special Operations Response Team is trained in flood response and search & rescue (certified to DEFRA Level 3).
They carry appropriate personal protective equipment and on-board decontamination facilities and operate to a defined 'safe system of work' to ensure their own safety and the safety of those they help.
Don't enter flood water that is moving or more than 10cm (4 inches) deep
Consider entering flood water - i.e. to protect your own property or to help others, only if:
Keep a careful watch for hazards such as:
and, bear in mind that water levels can change quickly and dramatically.
If you get advance warning of flooding, it's best to move your car to higher ground to reduce the risk of costly damage or the hassle of an insurance claim.
Flood water, particularly sea water, can play havoc with vehicle electrics causing intermittent or erratic operation of lights and wipers for example. Sometimes the consequences can be more dangerous, and we've seen cases where all the airbags have deployed suddenly and without warning some time after a vehicle was recovered. If flood water has reached floor height or got inside the vehicle it's best to telephone for help before attempting to recover it.
Move your car to higher ground if you can
Urban flood water can carry dangerous bacteria that could cause disease, particularly if drains/sewers have back-washed!
In rural areas contamination is more likely to come from agricultural chemicals and animal waste.
It's safest to assume that water is contaminated even if there's not obvious evidence such as floating or suspended sewage, oil slicks etc.
If you do enter (shallow and still) flood water it's best to wear protection such as wellington boots and to keep your hands out of the water. Wash and clean up carefully afterwards.
(3 December 2014)